Advice on traditional grip

Bill'O

Member
To the original poster,
I am sorry to dig up this thread but I suffer too from focal dystonia on the left wrist/forearm (writers cramp) for a year now.
I had to switch to trad grip as my wrist will bend down as soon as I catch a stick with matched grip.
I have encountered exactly the same issues as you to a point that I asked myself "did I write this post and don't recall or what?! oO"
Since I switched, I ofc lost a lot of power on my snare and toms hits but working on the wrist motion opened fingers helps indeed.
I play in technical punk rock bands and need speed around the kit with 32nd fills.
My main issue is that I have hard time going from rack tom to floor tom with consistency and not catching the rack tom's hoop every other fill...
How are you doing with your dystonia? How is your trad motion after few years?
Best
 

Jeff Almeyda

Senior Consultant
I have just been diagnosed with musician's dystonia as well. It has been a difficult few years as I found my left hand fingers curling in every time I grabbed the stick in matched grip.

As far as traditional grip, you have to check out Jojo's Myer's vid "Secret Weapons for the modern drummer". He has several excellent exercises and tips for developing it.

Also, check out Drumworkout.com. Bill Bachman is a legend in the drum corps world and arguably THE last word on hand technique.

As far as the dystonia itself, the best treatment option has been botox injections. I was just at NYU Medical and they had FIVE neurologists examine me simultaneously while video taping me playing on a pad. I lucked out because one of them is the leading guy for this stuff. He's done over 275 musicians and 17 drummers.

My appointment for the injection is set for Aug 30. I am set to tour Europe in October so I am keeping my fingers crossed.
 

Bill'O

Member
Thanks for your tips, I'll definitely check that.
It is a heartwarming thing to be able to talk to drummers with almost the same condition as me.
After one year of knowing about my condition, I must say that I am still unsure about "what" we are really struggling with.
I don't know how you "achieved" this state but in my case, I really recall how I spent too many hours forcing my body to practice certain rudiments
and how the more pain I felt in my forearm, the more I was telling myself "more endurance, pain means more muscles needed..." To a point where my brain just learnt that each time a stick fells in my left hand, that means "forearm contraction"...
To me it seems that we can't be treated like people that wake up from one day to another with the neck upside down or the lips moving without reason. Though the name of the sickness is dystonia, that just don't sound the same as something that appears after long hours of repetition.
I am in Europe(fr) and went to see a specialist about musician dystonia in Spain last September (Joaquin Fabra http://www.distoniadelmusico.com/en/).
The guy as a total psychological approach of the disease, meaning that you need to retrain brain to reflex normally on the triggering condition by visualization and positive state of mind. Easier said than done I must say but I have seen some improvements.
How did you get to "dystonia land"?
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
With traditional grip some real guidance is needed.

You definetly need to train your wrist movement and it's not gonna come as easy as with matched grip. A wrist turn like that isn't our body's most natural movement.

The problem though is that so many people are stuck in their ways. I' ve ben to so many different teachers. The first question is usuallt why I play trad. then we go down the path of only one way to do it. Go the the next guy who also says there's only one way to do it. Problem is though, they're both saying what the othe guy is saying is bullshit.

Understand the movements. Understand how that works with your hands. If there are issues isolate that movement and work slowly and perfectly. Don't be guessing in regards to what you're actualy trying to do.

About the crash thing. I generally hold pretty tight and do a whip. Thumb holds it down and the index finger is the fingers on top are there to control immediately after impact. You can't just let it go. In a way I guess my whole arm gives weight to the stroke. Do a big Moeller down-stroke and I think you should have the idea. Look at Todd Sucherman.

When someone says that snare is easy, but toms and cymbals are not, then I generally think that wrists and arm movements aren't very developed. Playing loud on the snare will probably be just as hard to do with control, especially if rely primarily on the wrist. So many people don't get how high you must go and how much of a difference the tilt of the snare makes there. Some open up the grip and control with the thumb, some think that's wrong. I sort of comes down to how hard you need to be able to play. Don't have a traditional jazz guy tell you how to get a powerful back beat with trad grip.

In this day of talking finger control and Moeller stroke so much, developing the wrists isn't vbery "sexy", but it's the foundation. You can't get away from that.
 
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Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
thanks, when you talk about wrist motion, you mean this kind of practice?
pretty good video imo
Yea, it's just the motion. When you bring your index finger over things tighten up quite a bit, hence all the disagreement. There's a tndency to not focus on conditioning of the wrist and since it's a bit awkward or more difficult to do it controlled in trad grip eope tend to not spend the time required.

Interesting him mentioning the Weckl intensives. I went to one of those too and grip was approved, :) Nervewrecking playing in front of the guy and 11 other drummers, though.

The point is just that going fast on toms is all wrist, so don't forget about working on that. Can you do consistent half strokes like you can with the right hand? That's sort of why people step away from trad a bit. It's many times the work.
 

rebonn

Senior Member
Traditional grip served a purpose a 100 years ago when you were marching with a drum slung on your hip. Its really surprising that it has stayed with us all of these years. There really is no advantage to it on a drum kit and as you are discovering, there are definite disadvantages. As such, I have basically abandoned it.

If you want to pursue it though, as has been suggested the wrist has to drive the motion more than the arm. Its also important to adjust your setup so you can attack the cymbals from a good angle with that grip.

Traditional grip actually uses far fewer muscles than a matched grip. I have heard unconfirmed reports that some big name artists are having issues in the left hand because of it. Obviously I have no way to prove or disprove those rumors but it sounds plausible to me.
THIS
 

Bill'O

Member
I have just been diagnosed with musician's dystonia as well. It has been a difficult few years as I found my left hand fingers curling in every time I grabbed the stick in matched grip.
this
I am sorry to dig up this thread but I suffer too from focal dystonia on the left wrist/forearm (writers cramp) for a year now.
I had to switch to trad grip as my wrist will bend down as soon as I catch a stick with matched grip.
this
To get this thread back on track, the reason I'm switching to traditional grip after 20 years playing matched is that I suffer from a condition called focal distonia, which affects my ability to play relaxed strokes in my left hand (basically, my hand always shakes to a degree). I've realized recently that the affects of this condition are much less when I'm using traditional grip.
and this.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
My main issue is that I have hard time going from rack tom to floor tom with consistency and not catching the rack tom's hoop every other fill...
Sorry to hear about your distonia. Sounds awful.

That video is good for addressing speed on the snare, but it overlooks moving from snare to other parts of the kit.

Think about why the stick catches the hoop. The stick must simply be too low, right? Were it elevated enough, it would clear the hoop.

The sufficient stick height is easy enough for you with matched grip, but in trad grip, that same stick height is much more challenging. In order to really elevate the stick, you can disengage the index and ring fingers, but this is problematic, since you also lose some control. Another way to increase stick height is to rotate at the elbow. When you first begin trad grip, this elbow rotation is not strong, fast, or flexible, because we don't really use this movement in daily life. But, over time, you will gain speed and flexibility. By improving your elbow rotation, your index and middle fingers can remain over the stick as you play, which will retain control over the stick's movement.

As you practice the elbow rotation, your wrist should be bent backward, about 45 degrees, so that the stick can hit the center of the pad, or the center of the tom. Practice Moeller technique, in groups of 4, 3, and 2, placing the accented note on the tom, and the unaccented notes on the snare. Keep your index and middle fingers over the stick.

If you want, you can elevate the left side of the snare and tom, but with proper usage of the elbow, it's not necessary (assuming the drums are elevated enough, generally).
 

Bill'O

Member
Thanks a lot for this detailed explanation, not sure what you mean by elbow rotation, like lifting it up a little?
Cheers
 

rdb

Senior Member
I also have focal distonia, and it's been a huge struggle. I literally cannot play matched grip. Fortunately, the distonia affect is much less with traditional grip, so that's what I've been working on. For me, the issue then with traditional grip is developing the correct little muscles, especially to turn the wrist properly.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Thanks a lot for this detailed explanation, not sure what you mean by elbow rotation, like lifting it up a little?
Cheers
No, not lifting up. Bend your elbow 90 degrees, and hold your left hand out, palm down. Now turn your left hand counter clockwise so that it's palm up. This is elbow rotation.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Sounds to me that what is needed is time and practice. Practice moving around the kit at slow speeds until it is near perfect. Then add 5 or 10 BPM only until that is near perfect, then continue. Not sure how long you've been trying, but be patient and it will come.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
I've been reading about musicians dystonia since seeing this thread. I don't have it, so I don't understand. Do the fingers stop working so the stick is inoperable, or are the fingers uncontrollable and the stick does what it wants?

Everything I've read talks about loss of motor skills and neurons in the brain, but nothing really about what it does specifically. Sorry for the derail, I find this problem both fascinating and horrifying at the same time.
 

Bill'O

Member
I've been reading about musicians dystonia since seeing this thread. I don't have it, so I don't understand. Do the fingers stop working so the stick is inoperable, or are the fingers uncontrollable and the stick does what it wants?

Everything I've read talks about loss of motor skills and neurons in the brain, but nothing really about what it does specifically. Sorry for the derail, I find this problem both fascinating and horrifying at the same time.
bettter than a thousand words :) https://drive.google.com/open?id=1JH2Uje9ZH9FwJTwSGTnAI_Qw2XJRi71_
 

thedrummersalmanac

Junior Member
So sorry to hear about your dystonia, and I'm inspired by your perseverance to keep playing and practicing. I switched from a match grip to traditional in college. It wasn't for any medical reason. It was because I was getting picked on by the upperclassman jazz drummers for playing like a "rock" guy. Stupid reason, but when you are 18 years old and impressionable... I learned later in my career how unnecessary that task was and now strive to get my match grip playing on par with my traditional grip. Audiowonderland commented above "Traditional grip served a purpose a 100 years ago when you were marching with a drum slung on your hip. It's really surprising that it has stayed with us all of these years. There really is no advantage to it on a drum kit and as you are discovering, there are definite disadvantages. As such, I have basically abandoned it." ...and imo he pretty much nailed it. But traditional does offer some stylistic things that feel different. They aren't better. they just feel different. So if you like that feeling, you should go for it... However, to be forced to switch due to a medical reason is astonishing. I know how hard it is to switch your grip after years of conditioning. I did do a youtube series on traditional. You're welcome to check it out... maybe it will help you on your journey. Best of luck to you my friend. I hope you figure it out. There are 3 videos in total. The 1st one is here:
 

Bill'O

Member
So sorry to hear about your dystonia, and I'm inspired by your perseverance to keep playing and practicing. I switched from a match grip to traditional in college. It wasn't for any medical reason. It was because I was getting picked on by the upperclassman jazz drummers for playing like a "rock" guy. Stupid reason, but when you are 18 years old and impressionable... I learned later in my career how unnecessary that task was and now strive to get my match grip playing on par with my traditional grip. Audiowonderland commented above "Traditional grip served a purpose a 100 years ago when you were marching ...
Thanks a lot for your words, I am going to take a close look at that. Onwards!..
 

hawksmoor

Senior Member
I've been reading about musicians dystonia since seeing this thread. I don't have it, so I don't understand. Do the fingers stop working so the stick is inoperable, or are the fingers uncontrollable and the stick does what it wants?

Everything I've read talks about loss of motor skills and neurons in the brain, but nothing really about what it does specifically. Sorry for the derail, I find this problem both fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

Homer Steinweiss, the funk and soul drummer with the Dap-Kings, Lee Fields, Charles Bradley, Amy Winehouse and many, many more suffers from focal dystonia. He plays right-handed. Here he is talking about it:

Amazingly, Steinweiss has been keeping this busy pace for the last year-plus while suffering from the neurological condition focal dystonia. In layman's terms it means the brain isn't telling a muscle or group of muscles what to do, resulting in undesirable muscular contractions. In Steinweiss's case, his right foot was affected to the point where it simply wasn't able to work the kick pedal. So he bought a double pedal, kept his hi-hat clamped shut, and began using his left foot as his primary kick foot. "It's something that happened over a long period of time," the drummer explains. "Every once in awhile my right foot started feeling weird. I kept practicing, and it just was not getting better. It got to a point where I was doing sessions and gigging all the time and one day I just said, "Guys, I can't work right now-my right foot feels weird.'I bought a double bass pedal, stuck it on there, and within a week I was back at it. No one noticed. I'm kind of shocked that it worked. I'm a left-foot drummer now.'
 
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